What’s Next For Cursive Education in The 21st Century

In recent years, the landscape of handwriting education has undergone significant changes, reflecting the demands and opportunities of the digital age. This transformation raises questions about the relevance of cursive writing in modern curricula.

The advent of online education and the dominance of digital communication have led to the marginalization of traditional writing instruction, including cursive handwriting. While some argue that this shift is necessary to align with the demands of the modern age, others lament the fading of this age-old skill.

A notable omission from the Common Core Standards is the teaching of cursive writing. Many states no longer mandate cursive instruction. This omission has raised questions about the perceived relevance of penmanship, particularly cursive, in today’s educational landscape.

The Challenge of Time Management

Elementary school teachers, faced with limited class time, must carefully select which subjects to prioritize. The sheer time required to teach cursive is often cited as a barrier to its inclusion in the curriculum, as pointed out by a fourth-grade teacher.

Cognitive Benefits of Cursive

Proponents of cursive argue that it offers cognitive benefits, such as improved hand-eye coordination and memory. Some teachers contend that students’ understanding and spelling abilities are enhanced through cursive writing. However, in an era of spellcheck, the significance of spelling is a topic of debate.

One growing concern is that individuals who do not learn cursive may struggle to read it, even when it’s neatly written. This raises questions about future citizens’ ability to decipher important historical documents written in cursive. However, it’s worth noting that few people today can read Old English, Latin, or Ancient Greek, suggesting a changing linguistic landscape.

Cursive Therapy for Dyslexia

Experts in special education propose cursive writing as a therapeutic tool for individuals with dyslexia. They argue that the left-to-right fluidity of cursive aids in word formation. Although this claim is subject to debate, some educators believe that a child’s handwriting neatness correlates with improved performance in arithmetic and reading.

Public Opinion on Cursive

Despite the evolving educational landscape, public opinion on cursive education remains divided. A Harris Interactive poll, funded by a pencil maker, found that 79% of adults and 68% of school-age children believe cursive should still be taught in schools. Furthermore, there is a perception that individuals who cannot read or write in cursive are seen as less intelligent.

SAT Essays and Cursive

A College Board survey reported that SAT essays written in cursive achieved higher scores compared to printed essays. While the reasons behind this phenomenon remain unclear, it raises questions about the role of cursive handwriting in assessments. Further research is needed to determine if it reflects grader bias or other factors.

Despite the changing educational landscape, cursive writing still finds enthusiasts among students. Some find enjoyment in the elegant and stylish nature of cursive, while others recognize its efficiency in writing all the letters at once. For some, aspirations of future stardom, where signatures play a crucial role, motivate them to master this skill.

Contrary to the declining emphasis on cursive in many regions, some states have enacted legislation mandating its teaching in public schools. States like North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, and California have taken steps to preserve this form of writing instruction.

The Impact of Typewriters

The advent of typewriters marked a pivotal turning point in the fate of cursive handwriting. As people embraced typewriters for their efficiency and standardized text, the need for cursive began to diminish. Typewriters represented the first wave of technological change that would reshape the way we communicate.

In 2010, the U.S. government made a significant decision that further accelerated the decline of cursive. Cursive writing was officially removed from the required Common Core Standards for K-12 education. This decision sparked debates about the practicality and relevance of teaching cursive in the digital age.

The impact of omitting cursive instruction from the Common Core Standards extends beyond the classroom. Many members of Generation Z, the cohort born after the mid-1990s, have never been taught how to read or write cursive. This shift in education raises questions about the potential loss of a valuable skill and art form.

Amidst the decline, there are signs of a cursive comeback. In California, a new law mandates cursive handwriting instruction as a required part of the curriculum, putting it on par with subjects like English, math, and social sciences. A 2022 report from the National Education Association reveals that 21 states now require cursive in public school curriculums, signaling a resurgence of interest in this form of writing.

Is It Making a Return?

To appreciate the resurgence of cursive, it’s worth exploring its origins. Cursive handwriting can be traced back to ancient civilizations like the Greeks and Romans. Over time, it evolved into the flowing, connected script we recognize today.

One intriguing aspect of cursive is how each letter is uniquely shaped, and Z is no exception. Learning to write the cursive alphabet involves mastering the distinct, fluid strokes that characterize this elegant script.

One of the advantages of cursive is its fluid motion, which makes it a natural choice for beginner writers. It’s not just about aesthetics; cursive is faster, involves fewer stops, and is less fatiguing than printing. With only three main strokes to master, it’s less challenging for young learners.

The Evolution of Cursive

Cursive handwriting, with its graceful loops and flowing strokes, has a historical significance deeply rooted in the past. In the 19th century, it was more than just a form of writing; it embodied ideals of good character and virtue. Cursive was often hailed as a “Christian ideal” and occasionally credited with disciplining the mind, positioning it as a cornerstone of education in that era.

However, the golden era of cursive began to wane in the 20th century, marked by the advent of typewriters. Typewriters brought a fundamental shift in the way people approached writing. They offered efficiency and a standardized text that cursive couldn’t match. This technological advancement was the first in a series of changes that would redefine the role of cursive in society.

A significant blow to cursive came in 2010 when the U.S. government officially removed it from the required Common Core Standards for K-12 education. This decision stirred heated debates about the relevance of teaching cursive in a world increasingly dominated by digital communication. It marked a pivotal moment in the decline of cursive as an essential educational component.

The ramifications of cursive’s removal from Common Core extend beyond the classroom. Members of Generation Z, born after the mid-1990s, have largely missed out on cursive instruction. This generation’s unfamiliarity with cursive writing raises questions about the potential loss of a valuable skill and art form. As technology advances, the gap widens between this generation and the elegant script of cursive.

Despite its decline, there are signs of a potential cursive comeback. California, for instance, has passed legislation mandating cursive handwriting instruction as part of the standard curriculum, elevating it to the status of subjects like English and math. Furthermore, a 2022 report from the National Education Association reveals that 21 states now require cursive in public school curriculums, indicating a renewed interest in preserving this form of writing for future generations.

Pros and Cons of Cursive Writing

Pros of Cursive Writing

  • Cursive writing requires intricate hand movements, fostering improved hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills in individuals, particularly children. The fluid, continuous strokes of cursive necessitate precision and dexterity.
  • Studies have suggested that learning cursive may have cognitive benefits. It can enhance memory retention and recall, as the act of writing in cursive engages different brain processes compared to typing.
  • Cursive is often admired for its aesthetic appeal. Many find the elegant, connected script visually pleasing, making it a preferred choice for formal documents, invitations, and personal notes.
  • Cursive signatures hold a unique identity and are often considered more personal and distinctive than printed ones. They add a personal touch to legal documents, letters, and various forms of communication.
  • Cursive handwriting carries a historical significance, connecting us to documents, manuscripts, and letters from the past. It allows individuals to read and appreciate historical texts in their original form.

Cons of Cursive Writing

  • In today’s digital age, cursive writing has limited practical application. Most written communication occurs through digital devices and typed text. This reduced relevance has led to the omission of cursive from many educational curricula.
  • Compared to print writing, cursive can be more time-consuming to learn, especially for young students. It involves mastering a unique set of letterforms and connecting them, which can be challenging for beginners.
  • Not everyone finds cursive writing accessible or legible. Some individuals struggle to read or write in cursive, which can hinder effective communication. In an increasingly diverse and interconnected world, legibility issues can pose challenges.
  • The inclusion of cursive in educational curricula can be contentious due to time constraints. With a packed curriculum and a focus on essential skills, educators may prioritize other subjects over cursive instruction.
  • Advancements in technology and the prevalence of digital tools have made typing and keyboard skills more relevant for the modern workforce. As a result, the time spent on cursive instruction may be seen as better invested in other areas of education.

The debate over the relevance of cursive writing in modern education persists. While proponents emphasize its cognitive benefits and historical significance, contrarians question its practical utility in today’s digital world. As educational practices continue to evolve, the role of cursive in curricula remains a topic of discussion.